The Venue – Choose a restaurant or pub that you are familiar with or visit the venue before making a reservation. This will help you assess the dining options available and select a good table, away from obvious loud sounds. Recent interior design trends such as open plan design and minimal soft furnishings means background sounds are not soaked up making it a difficult atmosphere for everyone – whatever your hearing ability.

Timing – If you can, choose a time when the restaurant might be less busy such as earlier evenings for optimal hearing capacity. It may also be useful to remember that for some people listening in a noisy environment can be tiring after a while, so keep the evening a bit shorter if this becomes obvious.

Positioning – It is often best for people who struggle to hear to have a table in the corner of the room or next to a wall. If you have your back to the wall and face your fellow diner(s), this prevents excess noise coming from behind and allows you to focus on the conversation in front of you.

Be prepared – Take a look at the menu before you go and check out the specials board on arrival. This avoids the awkwardness of sometimes not being able to hear the waiting staff when they ask you for your order.

Company – Go with someone who understands what you can and cannot hear. Remember that hearing loss can be invisible to others so if this is your first time meeting this person for a meal it might be best to pre-warn them if you think you might struggle.

Booth over table – The high backs of a booth will often block out some of the noise of a restaurant environment. Furthermore, booths are typically made out of soft cushion-like fabric which may also help to soak up some of the background noise within the venue.

Avoid the kitchen – Another new modern fad is having the kitchen exposed to diners so that the chef’s skills become a source of entertainment, however this often creates more noise. Request to be seated as far away from the kitchen as possible so you’re not forced to shout over the noise.

Avoid live music – Live bands are often hired to play during busy weekend evenings to help provide a further source of entertainment to diners so its best to avoid these restaurants at these times.

Let there be light – A well-lit venue is preferred. One with either plenty of natural or electric lighting. Candlelight may be more atmospheric, but it doesn’t make it easy for lipreading!

Rounder table over square – Rounder tables allow for good visibility of everyone at the meal. This way everyone feels included and also helps with concentration and lipreading.


By Duncan Collet-Fenson, Audiologist & MD of Aston Hearing